Friday, August 19, 2011

Guilty Pleasures

I know a really well adjusted human that thinks Aqua's Barbie Girl is a great pop song. I have a friend who cannot resist singing along to I Will Survive whenever it is on, wherever she is. We all have ephemeral guilty pleasures, but the real ones are the kind that we can revisit time and again and really feel a way we miss.

Asking people what their favourite songs or films are is one of those things where rarely can you think of one thing; a favourite something tends to change with whatever mood we're in. Ask someone to list their five favourite somethings and two of them will invariably change over time.

I love films; I've seen shitloads. It's pretty much my specialist subject in quizzes (unless there's a James Bond question, then it tends to be an educated guess - as I said to an old friend recently, most James Bond films could be called Fred Smith 007 for the relevance they have to Fleming's books). Throughout my life there have been loads of movies that I've loved and a good percentage of those have slightly lost their impact with time; they're still great, but, you know, maybe not in my top 5, 10, 50 or whatever, any longer.

There have been three films that have been constants in my favourite films list ever since I first saw them. Others still poke around and drop in and out of the other two places, but these three have remained constant. The first (but not necessarily FIRST) is Close Encounters of the Third Kind (original version, which I own on VHS tape). I think the Special Edition is great, but the first version still has me completely enthralled and I've now seen it so many times I can virtually speak everyone's lines - even bits of the Spanish at the beginning. CE3K isn't a masterpiece; it has flaws and over 30 years since it came out some of the ideas are a wee bit... silly. But I think Richard Dreyfuss is brilliant; I think for its time it is pretty much Spielberg's best film and it makes me blub at the end, every time, without fail.

The second film in the trio is Harvey starring Jimmy Stewart and an invisible 6 foot tall rabbit. As screwball comedies go, there's very little to compare. It is just surreal enough to make you wonder just what is really going on and it's just a very subversive film for its age. this has more sentimental value for me than I can fully explain.

The final film in that trio is one that has matured with age and has taken on a different resonance in this century. It is a film about which I have little understanding; it makes no sense at all, but like the other two films it is a fantasy - possibly the purest fantasy of them all. It wreaks of Americanism; it has a wooden actor in the lead; a turn by a legend that is spellbinding and a supporting actor who just spends the entire film looking like he's having the most fun he's ever had. It also makes me cry and not just at the simply brilliant ending, but throughout the entire film. There are moments when I speak the next lines of certain characters and I just well up!

It is a film that is both very sad and capable of making me feel elated, reinvigorated, capable of facing the challenges of life and not because they will be solved by a fantastically bizarre idea, because we all have the ability to beat the things that hold us back. It's allegory dressed up as the American Dream and it is probably my biggest guilty pleasure. It's not a film that movie buffs will recognise as a piece of film making history or even a worthy entry into lists of favourite films, but I know heaps of people who just love it all the same.

I watched it again tonight, for probably the sixth or seventh time. I think it might be the first time I've watched it since my dad died; that episode in my life has added a totally new dimension to this film. I got upset, but in a good way and I don't care what people think, at this moment in time, this 1989 film is probably my favourite film of all time.

Can you guess what it is yet?


  1. Field of Dreams?

    My top three is My Neighbour Totoro, Princess Mononoke and Halloween.

  2. Wooden actor, film legend, 1989? That must be Field of Dreams

    How's the libel suit going btw ; ) - loving the read especially about Dez!

  3. What libel suit, Mr Miller? I shouldn't tempt fate but he'd have a job :) Besides, it's all true!!!

  4. Heh, unfortunately truth has nothing to do with libel (btw the libel comment was about Rich's fear) it is about damage. It doesn't matter whether something is true, libel is about whether you have damaged the person.

    Oh and also, it is the only court case where you have to prove yourself innocent in this country! Mad

    Shame really because it is the one thing that really holds back free speech in this country.

    Was I right about Field of Dreams?

  5. It was Field of Dreams.
    I don't think it was Rich, I think it was his paymasters; but I reckon he's still going to plug it.